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MANSUR (334-341/946-952), 13TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"He was born in 302/914 in Kairwan, the first Fatimid Imam to be born in Maghrib. His name was Ismail and kunya was Abu Tahir, surnamed al-Mansur bi-Amrillah (Victorious by the command of God). He acceded the throne on 334/945 during the time when Abu Yazid had laid a siege over Susa.

Abu Yazid Khariji traced his tribal origin to the clan of Ifran. He had a leaning towards the doctrines of the Kharijis, which he learnt from Abu Ammar al-A'ma. Abu Yazid had been elected then the leader of the Kharijis, and intended to acquire political power. He started his anti-Fatimid agitation in 316/928 in Qastila and soon procured a large following. With the Berbers moving quickly to his side, Abu Yazid engineered his revolt in 332/944, and swiftly conquered almost all the southern regions, and seized Kairwan in 333/944. He laid a siege over Susa when Imam al-Mansur ascended. Ibn Khallikan writes in Wafayat al-A'yan (1:219) that, "Al-Mansur was charged by his father (al-Qaim) to wage war against Abu Yazid, who had revolted against his authority. Abu Yazid Makhlad bin Kaidad belonged to the sect of Ibadites; he made an outward show of rigid devotion, but was in reality an enemy of God; he never rode but on an ass, nor wore any dress but woolen."

The first task of Imam al-Mansur was to relieve Susa. He himself commanded the forces and inflicted a severe defeat on Abu Yazid, and drove him back to Kairwan, then he went to Sabta, and reached Kairwan and helped the suffered people. The Imam was warmly received in Kairwan, and he also personally conducted a close chase, defeating Abu Yazid near Tubna and then around Masila. In 336/947, Imam al-Mansur inflicted a final defeat on the Khariji Berbers in the mountains of Kiyana, where the rebels had entrenched themselves in a fortress, called Qalat Bani Hammad.

Abu Yazid was suppressed and taken prisoner, but was died of his wounds. Jafar bin Mansur (d. 365/975) is the contemporary authority, who had also composed few poems about the revolt of Abu Yazid and the marvelous actions of Imam al-Mansur. Ibn Athir (7:171) tells us that, "Al-Mansur personally took charge of the military operations and put an end to Abu Yazid's menace. Had al-Mansur failed in checking this menace, it is probable that the Fatimid empire would not have survived long. With all this, al-Mansur treated generously with his implacable foe. He came to Kairwan in 334/945 and gave protection to the family of Abu Yazid who had despaired of life. He even granted his wives and children monthly allowances. He also granted Abu Yazid's request to restore his wives and children to him on condition that he would not wage war. But Abu Yazid soon broke his promise and tried to launch another insurrection." Fazal, the son of Abu Yazid continued the revolt in the Awras for a few months until he, too, was subdued and was brought to Mahdiya by Batit bin Ya'la bin Batit in 336/948. Other sons of Abu Yazid fled to Spain and took refuge under the Umayyads. The rebellion of Abu Yazid, however, had sucked away the resources of the state, forcing the Fatimids to pay a heavy price.

When Imam al-Mansur was subduing Abu Yazid's revolt, a report reached to him about a petty uprising of Hamid Bazaltain, the chief of the Maghrib, who had laid a siege over Tahrat soon after announcing his loyalty with the Umayyads of Spain. After crushing the revolt of Abu Yazid, the Imam focused his attention at the new rising, and himself commanded his army. He inflicted a defeat to Hamid and appointed Yala bin Muhammad, the chief of Banu Ifran in Maghrib.

Imam al-Mansur was unable to pay attention towards Sicily during the revolt of Abu Yazid, where Ibn Ataf proved an inefficient governor. Taking advantage of his weakness, the Byzantines stopped the payment of the tribute to the Fatimids. In the meantime, the inhabitants of Sicily also rose against Ibn Ataf, who hid himself in the old castle of Palermo.

Confronted by the chaotic situation caused by the rebellious at Palermo and Agrigento in Sicily against the Fatimid amirs, Imam al-Mansur deemed it logical and sensible to entrust Sicily's administration to those whose fidelity was proven beyond doubt, and who, moreover, could maintain a neutral stand, therefore, Imam al-Mansur appointed Hasan bin Ali al-Kalbi as a new governor of Sicily in 336/946.

Hasan bin Ali al-Kalbi belonged to an influential Kalbid family, stemming from the tribe of Kalab bin Wabara of Banu Abil Hussain. Under the Aghlabids rule, the Kalabid family began to decline from public notice, but they became the main prop and stay during the Fatimids period, and swiftly found a milieu favourable to their rise, and became a governing element of Muslim Sicily by the middle of the 4th/10th century. Ali bin Ali al-Kalbi, one of the first dynasts of the family and son-in-law of Salim bin Abi Rashid, the then Fatimid governor of Sicily, from 305/917 to 325/936, died at the siege of Agrigento in 326/938. His son Hasan bin Ali al-Kalbi, who had distinguished himself in the campaigns waged by Imam al-Qaim and Imam al-Mansur against Abu Yazid, was the first of a succession of Kalbid governors in Sicily, a kind of hereditary emirate under the Fatimids which lasted until the middle of 5th/11th century.

In Sicily, Hasan bin Ali al-Kalbi finished the internal uprisings and restored peace. He also solidified his army, forcing the Byzantine emperor to resume the payment of the tribute. On Imam al-Mansur's death in 341/952, Hasan bin Ali returned to Mansuria, leaving behind the government of the island in the hands of his son, Ahmad bin Hasan (342-358/953-969), the second Kalbid governor of Sicily.

The new Fatimid policy led to the origination of the semi-independent dynasty of the Kalbids, which ruled over Sicily for almost a century on behalf of the Fatimids, having considerable autonomy. Hasan, called al-Samsan (431-445/1040-1053) was the last Kalbid governor of Sicily. The Norman Count Roger captured Messina in 1060, and Palermo, the capital of the island fell to them in 1072. The Normans also occupied Syracuse in 1085 and by 1091 the whole of the island came to the possession of the Normans. That was the end of the Muslim rule in Sicily.

In 340/951, Imam al-Mansur was reported that the emperor Constantine VII (913-959) of France was about to invade the Fatimid territories, thus a naval forces was dispatched under Faraj Saqali. Hasan bin Ali al-Kalbi, the governor of Sicly and Faraj jointly invaded Kaloria and defeated the French forces. The French emperor was obliged to send tributes and a peace-negotiating embassy to the Fatimid court. On their way back to Maghrib, the Fatimid naval forces conquered Reggio and built there a mosque, the ruins of which have been unearthed recently.

In 335/947, Imam al-Mansur ordered yet another new capital built a short distance southwest of Kairwan, called Mansuria. It served a new Fatimid capital after Mahdiya.

Imam al-Mansur died in 341/952. F.Dachraoui writes in Encyclopaedia of Islam (1990. 6:434) that, "Mansur's personality shines with an unparalleled brilliance under the pens of the Ismaili authors, who, as also the Sunni chroniclers, show great wander in relating his exalted deeds and who dwell at length on giving accounts of the battles, rebellions and other bloody events. According to their accounts, he possessed only good qualities: he was generous and benevolent, level-headed and perspicacious, above all possessing a brilliant eloquence; since his youth, he had devoted himself to piety and study, and was deeply conscious of his high calling as impeccable Imam and of his grandeur as a monarch."


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